A legacy that lives on: the life of Wilfredo Morales

Wilfredo Morales

Wilfredo Morales and his soon-to-be-wife Julia Morales during their senior prom when they lived in New York. Julia and Morales have known each other since she was 13 years old.

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 01:55 PM.

BONIFAY – Known for his love of Jesus and animals, Wilfredo Emanuel Morales, owner of Ben’s Place Animal Rescue Shelter in Bonifay, passed away on May 2 at his residence.

Morales was born in New York City on June 22, 1957 to the late Gilberto and Justiniana Morales he was a graduate of All Hallows High School, receiving his B.A. in Political Science from Pace University and his M.P.A. from John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.

“When he was in college his Political Science professor dared him to run for office, telling him that if he really wanted to make a difference he’d have to be an elected official,” said his now widow, Julia. “He ran for school board and at the age of 18 was the youngest elected official in the state of New York. After serving several terms he was school board president before he left.”

His nephews, Jorge and Paul Salazar, said Morales was a father figure to them and said that when they lived in the Bronx Morales was an important member of the community, taking up the distribution of commodities from their ailing grandmother and raising money for school supplies for needy children.

“He was the only good guy with connections with the drug dealers because in our neighborhood if you wanted to do anything you had to get permission from the drug dealers,” said Paul. “When there were community events held to raise funds for the children there was never any trouble or fights, which was amazing because in our neighborhood there was always gunshots going off and sirens. He held block parties and fundraisers.”

His family explained that Morales faced a life-changing event when he was in the Marines and his platoon was hit with an Improvised Explosive Devise putting him in a three-month coma and killing the rest of his platoon. Morales was honorably discharged but his family said there was a noticeable difference in the way he acted, saying he had an amazing zest for life and a disregard for conventional etiquette, choosing to “live every day as if it were his last.”

Julia said it was because of crack that they finally left New York for Fort Lauderdale.

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